Both a vitriolic legislative session — and a special session — that focused on abortion, bathrooms, and immigration policy, heated things up this past year in Austin.
Here are a few highlights from 2017:
- Sanctuary Cities Ban. On the last day of the 85th legislative session, protesters opposing Senate Bill 4 — the “sanctuary cities” law, filled up the Capitol’s rotunda chanting and holding signs like, “angry brown girl.” Republican state Rep. Matt Rinaldi called U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) all of them. The Republican from Irving apparently enraged other legislator so much that a fist-fight almost erupted. Rep. Rinaldi said in a statement that the Democratic state Rep. Poncho Nevárez (from Eagle Pass), “threatened my life on the House floor.” As a result, Rinaldi got protection from the Department of Public Safety. The Sanctuary Cities Bill was signed into law on May 7, 2017 and is fighting delays in court.
- Sanctuary City Sheriff. Gov. Abbott called on Sheriff Sanchez (who is now running for governor) to cooperate with ICE, or else her county would suffer financial losses.
- Masturbation Bill Ban. In response to the bathroom bill one state representative, Jessica Farrar, a Democrat from Houston, decided to introduce a satirical bill to penalize men for masturbating by fining them $100. It also proposed making it more difficult to have access to Viagra. (The bill never went anywhere.)
- Special Session to Nowhere. Gov. Abbott called a special session to address 20 issues, most of which fell apart. The ban on transgender, gender fluid, homosexuals, or anyone for that matter, from entering girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms never made it to a vote. Tax reform, school finance, and a range of other issues also didn’t make it to a vote.
- Abortion Bill Ban. Senate Bill 8 was signed into law. It bans the most common second-trimester abortion procedure and requires health care facilities, like hospitals and abortion clinics, to bury or cremate fetal remains. It also bans these facilities from “donating” aborted fetal tissue to medical researchers.
- Major Retirements. Eight in Congress announced their retirement this year, opening up new seats and leadership posts.
- Sex scandal. Rep. Joe Barton, the longest-serving Congressman in the Texas delegation, resigned after a nude photo of him circulated online. First, he apologized. He had sent the selfie to a woman he was dating in a consensual relationships. Then, about one week later, he announced his retirement.
- Barbara Bush. One of the twins of former Texas governor and president, George W. Bush, Barbara Bush, was the keynote speaker at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser— and– attended a fundraising event for the then-Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.
- California bans state-funded travel to Texas. After Texas lawmakers voted to permit child welfare providers to refuse services on religious grounds, the California attorney general made an unprecedented decision to ban state-funded travel to Texas for any public official traveling on work-related trips. His office stated that the bill “allows foster care agencies to discriminate against children in foster care and potentially disqualify LGBT families from the state’s foster and adoption system.”
- Good News drum roll:
Good news from Texas is that despite the worst flooding event in American history — 50 inches of rain throughout Houston, the Houston Astros won the World Series. And, a Fort-Worth area high school girl was the first girl to kick off a football game in the state championship, and her team won. The Texas Longhorns won their first winning season in four years, crushing Missouri in Houston at the Texas Bowl.